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Showing posts from February, 2019

THE MAN WHO ROBS YOU: Crucifix Taken and Retrieved

“Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you .” In the scheme of things, it’s not that big a deal. No one died or was injured. When we came to celebrate Mass on Tuesday morning our lovely crucifix was missing and nowhere to be found. Presumed stolen! My concern was that this was becoming a pattern because the previous week it was our most precious chalice (other chalices have been taken in the past) which was discovered later for sale in a shop. The embarrassed owner gave it back for nothing. When something is stolen from us we feel it like an invasion and when something sacred or holy is stolen it hurts more. We made a decision to keep the church open throughout the day as much as possible so that people passing by could drop in to light a candle, say a prayer, sit in silence or even sing out loud! It happened one evening that I came on a young couple doing just that – singing. People comment on the peace that is to be found i

RAFORD: A Place of Grace

I’m remembering Raford, the house on the hill in the country that was my mother’s birthplace, and I’m thinking of the clear cold water from the rain barrel at the gable end, cold water scooped up in a white enamel basin put standing on the kitchen table. White soap in a saucer and a blue towel to wipe away from my face the shock of the cold water of the morning. Granny cut slices of brown bread made by her own hands, the wholemeal wholeness of her heart in it and lavished with salty country butter churned by the same hands and mine. Everything and everybody was washed in rainwater and we went to the well down the lane to draw that which would quench our thirst and wet the tea. We brought tea in a billy can across the fields to Grandad in the bog and helped him load the cart with turf, sitting on top of it for the journey home, staring down into the black water of the bog holes, terrified that the cart would turn over when its wheels went to the very edge. It never did

THE HOLY BATH: A Rite of Passage

It's a very hot day but my time standing under the burning sun lasts only half an hour and then I'm into the shaded, seated area. Normally I really dislike waiting in a queue of any sort but there's a blessedness here waiting in common with others. Waiting and silent. Present. Waiting to get into the holy bath of Lourdes. The feast day of Lourdes was last Monday, February 11 th .  There’s one section for women and another for men. Sometimes my eyes are closed, sometimes I simply observe. This reminds me of the pool of  Bethesda in John 5 - the paralysed waiting for the moment of healing. We’re all paralysed in one way or another, all in need of healing. Dads with their little sons get priority over the rest of us, which is only right. They are a beautiful sight.  A young father holds his paralysed son in his arms. The boy spends his time looking up into the face of his father. Their eyes meet, their faces touch and the child utters incomprehensible sound

A RIVER IN THE DRY SEASON: Remembering Shirley, Twenty Years On

“When I’m Sixty-Four”, the Beatles song from 1967! I sang it back then when I was twelve, wondering what it might be like to be that old! And now it’s happened. I’m 64 and slowly losing my hair. I don’t want to lose it altogether and it’s amazing how important hair is to us, to me! And it reminds me of Shirley who, this time twenty years ago was in the last months of her life. She had cancer, a brain tumour for a few years. I was with her before she had surgery in 1997 and she said to me, “oh Eamonn, what if I die without my hair!” She had beautiful hair. A beautiful woman, with a beautiful mind, heart and soul. So much to lose. I’m thinking of my last journey to see her. We became friends, soul mates in Makiungu, Tanzania when I was a young priest and she a more seasoned missionary. In her I found a hearing and the freedom to be myself. The jacaranda trees, the airstrip at sunset, the starry sky - if these could speak, they would tell so much of our shared life. And our f

Come Take My Hands

I went to visit a man in hospital during the week and as I approached his bed, he stretched out his hand towards me, taking hold of mine and quietly stroking the back of my hand with his thumb. After a while of quiet he said, “we’ll let your hands do the talking!” Then he cried over his life as words would not express what was in him and I blessed him with my hands, spoke to him with my hands. Absolution, anointing, Holy Communion. He was satisfied, relieved, pleased. It’s not that it’s the end or anything. Just what he needed on the day. As our hands were held in that firm grip, I felt there was in it a powerful connection with each other and with God as if our hands became the intersection of the height and depth of a mystical experience. The height experienced by Isaiah, the depth experienced by Peter in the readings of last Sunday. Isaiah reminds me of an outstation in Tanzania – Hurui – where they were great for singing and one that I remember from them is based on Isaia

The Solitary Life of a Single Woman

Mary, a neighbour at home died recently. She was about a year younger than me and lived three doors away, lived there most of our sixty-something lives. There are two brothers and a sister, married with their own families but Mary remained single and lived at home alone for many years since her parents died. A solitary life, even an isolated one. No one in the avenue ever seemed to get close to her, there was no sign of friends coming to see her. We were not close, though we would always have a chat at her gate when I’d be home. The talk was mostly about her health because she had been fighting cancer for quite a few years and I would promise to pray for her. Her response to this promise of mine one day was, “you’re a liar, you’re a liar!” Maybe I wasn’t praying enough. Maybe she was telling the truth.  But I did think of her and pray when in my mind I would go around the sixteen terraced houses in the avenue and I would feel what I thought must be her loneliness, thou